Searcy plant deemed ‘StormReady’

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published July 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Kevin Caldwell, environmental health and safety manager for the Eaton Corp. hydraulics plant in Searcy, points out one of the storm-shelter areas in the factory.

— Spring is typically considered severe-weather season in Arkansas. That can mean dangerous lightning, large hail and powerful thunderstorms — and even tornadoes. When severe weather threatens Arkansas communities, if it strikes near the Eaton Corp. in Searcy, the plant and its employees are prepared.

Kevin Caldwell, environmental health and safety manager for the Searcy hydraulics plant, said he discovered the National Weather Service’s StormReady program at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration meeting in Mississippi County earlier this year.

Caldwell said he looked up the program online and discovered that the company he worked for already met the requirements to become a StormReady Supporter.

The National Weather Service designed the StormReady supporter program to help communities better prepare for and lessen the effects of severe weather, according to the NWS website.

“We’re proactive to the safety of our employees,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to keep our employees safe.”

After seeing the requirements to become a StormReady site, Caldwell submitted an application to the NWS, and on July 22, the company will receive a plaque to confirm the site’s new status.

Eaton is the third StormReady Supporter in Arkansas. Other StormReady sites are McKee Foods in Gentry and Nucor Steel-Arkansas in Blytheville.

Caldwell said the restrooms throughout the plant serve as storm shelters for all employees.

“All of the restrooms are equipped with a Severe Weather Incident kit, which includes [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] radios and flashlights,” Caldwell said.

The plant has more than 10 severe-weather pull stations, Caldwell said. Severe-weather pull stations are similar to a fire-alarm pull station but are bright yellow.

Matt Vandiver, an Environmental Health and Safety intern at Eaton, said a power outage won’t affect the alarms that sound when severe weather is in the area.

Severe-weather lights flash when the alarm is pulled, Vandiver said. The lights alert workers that severe weather is in the area and that they should go to a storm shelter immediately. The lights are similar to those that flash during a fire alarm, but are an amber color, Vandiver said.

Chris Randall, security supervisor for the Eaton Corp. in Searcy, said he and other security officers at the plant always have their eyes on the weather.

“When there is severe weather 30 miles out of Searcy or farther, we send an email out and monitor [the weather].” Randall said.

When severe weather is 30 miles or closer to Searcy and heading Eaton’s direction, that’s when Randall or another security officer pulls the master alarm, located at the front of the plant, to notify everyone to take cover.

“We stay in the storm shelters and wait for an ‘all clear’ from the NOAA weather radio,” Randall said.

More information about the StormReady program is available at www.stormready.noaa.gov.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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